It is necessary to consider how much time will AAs be required for. Basic legal compliance with the PACE Act and its Codes does not equate to effective practice as determined by national bodies (e.g. HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, HM Inspectorate of Prisons (joint custody inspections), the Youth Justice Board, the Children’s Commissioner, National Appropriate Adult Network). The same is likely to be true of the expectations of local stakeholders, who will often seek high standards.
Under PACE 1984, although the police can in very limited circumstances detain a person for up to 96 hours, more than 99% of detentions are less than 24 hours duration.
Academic studies given an indication of average detention times and suggest that they have increased over the years.
Avg. detention time
6 hours 40 mins
There will be local variation. HMIC (2015)found that average times ranged from 8 to 13 hours between forces. Kemp (2013) found significant variations between police stations within the same force.
Local data should be sought. For example, the average length of detention varies between poliage detention time for the Metropolitan Police March 2014 – March 2016 was 13.8 hours. There is no national requirement to submit local data on detention times for people detained under PACE, whether vulnerable or otherwise. However, HMI Constabulary and HMI Prisons’ joint inspections of police custody include average lengths of detention for police forces.
While long average detention times may indicate issues which the police need to tackle, long times do not always indicate poor practice. Vulnerable suspects have been found to be the least likely to activate their right to free legal advice. On study foudn that while 45% of 10-to 17-year-olds requested legal advice this was just 39% of 10- to 13-year-olds.
Average detention times have been found to be longer for suspects that received legal advice. It is important to understand whether the practices underpinning a given detention time reflect fair treatment of people who are detained. Introducing effective AA provision means imporved application of rights. In some cases this may involve increasing detention times (e.g as a result of ensuring legal advice) while in others it decreases (e.g. as a result of representations about the necessity to detain).
If a person is arrested under terrorism legislation, the maximum period is 14 days. However, around 40% are under one day and 90% are for fewer than 7 days.
 HMIC (2015), The welfare of vulnerable people in police custody p.83
 Home Office (2017), Operation of police powers under the Terrorism Act 2000, quarterly update to December 2016: data tables, Table A.02: Persons arrested under s.41 of the Terrorism Act 20001, by period of detention and outcome
PACE sets out the police processes and procedures for which it is mandatory for an AA to be present (see the 'Role' section of this guidance).
Research indicates that, currently, the minimum legal requirements are often not being met in some areas. The There to Help report (NAAN 2015) contains relevant survey data. AA providers (nationally) and custody officers (in one force) were asked about the likely presence of AAs for adults for whom one was required. Both groups indicated regular breaches of the PACE Act and Codes.
There were however, significant differences in the perspectives of the two groups. While custody officers confident that all interviews in custody requiring an AA did involve one, there were significantly less confident on all other measures.
When assessing need for a new or additional service, a quick survey of front line officers (and any existing AA providers) can help to establish the 'health' of current arrangements.
In early 2017, the Children’s Commissioner requested detailed data from all youth offending teams. Although no report has yet been pubilshed, copies of any data submissions should be obtainable from the local YOT.
The required level of AA involvement should be carefully considered and built into decisions on scheme design. In addition to enabling the police to comply with PACE, AA scheme developers / commissioners should consider what level of involvement (and therefore time commitment) will be necessary to:
- achieve the intended outcomes of the AA role; and
- avoid contributing to longer detention times for vulnerable people.
Interviews are typically a point of focus for police. However, as only 20 minutes are typically spent interviewing (much more in serious cases) they actually form a small percentage of a person’s experience.
A detention episode can involve gaps of time during which the police investigators are not interacting with the vulnerable suspect. These gaps may range in size due to:
- the complexity of a case;
- the type of evidence which needs to be considered;
- unexpectedly high levels of demand and high priority matters at certain times
- a failure to expedite cases;
- the person’s need for rest (right to an 8 hour unbroken period of rest in every 24 hours)
An AA’s presence in between these interactions should not be assumed to always be an inefficiency. The AA has a duty to be present to the extent that it is necessary to achieve their outcomes. They have a role outside of police procedures and interactions.
HMI Constabulary (2015) found that children waited on average 5.5 hours for an AA and that delays in the provision of AAs was one of the factors contributing to children being detained for unnecessarily long periods.
AAs should attend as soon as possible and within maximum response times set out in National Standards. As the National Standards must take into account a wide variety of geographies, developers/commissioners may wish to encourage, incentivise or require quicker response times.
It is not appropriate to delay the request for, or arrival of, an AA until police and/or the legal representative are ready for the vulnerable suspect to be interviewed.
 HMIC (2015) (Tim bateman presentation
 Littlechild, 1998
 Redditch and Goodman, 2003
Under the PACE Codes of Practice, a vulnerable suspect has a right to a private consultation with their AA at any time. They do not detail specific considerations or actions for an AA during a private consultation. However, private consultations form a critical part of effective practice for AAs. The reasons for a consultation will vary according the stage of the investigation and the needs of the individual over time. For example:
- on arrival at the station (to introduce self, establish trust, build and effective working relationship, identify and discuss support needs, ensure understanding)
- before any interview (e.g. to ensure understanding of process, discuss support needs)
- during an interview (e.g. where there is confusion or distress)
- after interviews (e.g. to ensure welfare and next processes)
- prior to decisions about an out of court disposal (to check understanding of process and implications to ensure consent is informed).
- at any time (e.g. to safeguard the psychological welfare of a vulnerable person by talking to them about matters unconnected to the justice process, giving them something else to focus on
Police are required to deal with the cases of all people in custody expeditiously.
This is particularly important in relation to suspects for whom an AA is required, as longer periods in custody may put them at particular risk of negative outcomes.
During gaps between interactions between police and a suspect, the AA can safeguard rights and welfare by inquiring with police as to progress and ensuring that procedures are carried out as soon as it practicable.
Once the police have sufficient evidence, there is a decision-making process as to whether to charge or take alternative action. Although the evidence-gathering phase has been completed, the role of the AA is not complete.
Decision-making can take a significant period of time due to internal police processes, shift handovers and/or referral to the Crown Prosecution Service. In the latter case, it is common for there be a delay of around 3 to 4 hours during which the person will likely remain in detention.
Under PACE, police are expected to make reasonable efforts to advise the AA of when the decision likely to be made, so that they can be present. If the AA cannot be available the person should be bailed. In some instances, it may therefore be possible for an AA to leave temporarily. However, important AA activities during this time include: -
- make representations about bail and any conditions attached to it
- make representations regarding possible justice outcomes, such as restorative justice;
- engage with police to expedite a charging decision.
If the wait is likely to be extensive, it may be possible for AAs to leave temporarily and carry out these activities remotely. However, AAs will need to feel confident that police will:
- engage with them remotely
- contact them and provide sufficient notice to attend in time.
In more complex cases as charging decision may take days or weeks and so the person may be released on bail pending charge.
At the point the decision is made and carried out, the AA has an important role including:
- ensuring understanding of any charge;
- ensuring understanding of any use of bail, particularly where there are conditions attached;
- ensuring understanding of the implications of admitting guilt and/or giving consent to receive any alternative to charging, such as a caution or conditional caution, and is able to access legal advice before doing so;
- ensuring that post-charge rights are respected, including the requirement to transfer a child who is charged and refused bail to local authority accommodation.
In very rare cases there may be post-charge questioning, which will require the presence of an AA. This is more common in terrorism-related cases but can occur under PACE in exceptional circumstances.
Scheme developers / commissioners will need to consider the impact of travel times for AAs. This will vary significantly depending on local geography and transport infrastructure, as well as the number and variety of locations AAs will be expected to cover. Understanding the level of flexibility and responsiveness required will help to inform choices about the design of provision.